The Revenant: A Revenge Tale – Gorgeous nature and brutal violence

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox


Earning Leonardo DiCaprio best actor, and Alejandro G. Inarritu best director at the Academy Awards, The Revenant is one of the finest films to be released this year.

The film first caught my eye when Tom Hardy (Bronson, Mad Max) gave up a lucrative starring role in the upcoming Suicide Squad film for a supporting role in The Revenant. Later I watched an interview where DiCaprio describes his experience shooting the film as “Hellish,” relating how he slept in a horse’s corpse, ate a raw liver, and nearly suffered hypothermia shooting a scene in frigid Canadian waters. This, and discovering that The Revenant shared a director with 2014’s seminal Birdman, cemented my interest in the project. And I have to say, it turned out damn good.

After a skirmish with dozens of Native Americans, a trapping party flees down the Mississippi. To avoid further encounters with natives, the trapper’s guide (DiCaprio) decides to chart a route inland. However, while doing so he is grievously wounded. The trappers carry him as far as they can, but soon he, his son, and some volunteering trappers decide to stay behind waiting for him to die. In a moment of panic over pursuing natives, one of the trappers (Tom Hardy) accidentally kills the guide’s son and, along with the other trapper, leaves the guide to his fate. Fueled by rage, the guide sets out after Tom Hardy’s character, dragging his broken body over miles of rough country.

The revenge story is one of the simplest and most satisfying plots in cinema, and The Revenant distills it to its barest state. In spite of that, it still manages to treat even its side characters with the care and attention to make them feel both human and fascinating.

Nearly every actor in The Revenant puts out a stellar performance with the help of Inarritu, but Tom Hardy shines as the main antagonist of the film. He creates a character that despite being both self-serving and vile, always maintains a level of relatability. His monologue about his father, God, and a squirrel is one of the highpoints of the film.

2015 was filled with stunningly shot films such as Mad Max: Fury Road and The Hateful Eight, and yet The Revenant remains a stand out. It masterfully portrays the beautiful yet indifferent wilds of the Dakotas in winter and the thrilling brutality of frontier skirmishes. Every moment of the film is a visual treat, brought on by some of the best cinematography that I’ve seen.